by R.A. Rowell; Co-Owner of Intent-sive Nature & the Brand Shamans network
Kalonian Twingrove is a Magic the Gathering card that was quite a bomb in Magic 2015 Draft and Sealed Deck back in its day. From the day it was released, it was clear that it had some upside in Commander with this card. It even saw some play in Standard!
Similar to other Treefolk cards like Dauntless Dourbark and Dungrove Elder, the Kalonian Twingrove has its power and toughness decided by the number of Forests you control. The difference is that every time it enters the battlefield, it makes a token of itself. Two creatures for 5G that can potentially both be extremely big is a strong card. The trouble is that it simply makes big tokens.
Unlike Dauntless Dourbark from Lorwyn, which costs 3G to play, it doesn't gain trample as long as you control another Treefolk. Armada Wurm is a mythic rare from Return to Ravnica that's a 5/5 Wurm that makes a copy of itself, but the Wurm has trample, and as does any tokens that it makes. Because Kalonian Twingrove doesn't have trample and doesn't have any sort of evasion, it and its token friend can be blocked by 1/1's all day.
Also, unlike Dungrove Elder from Magic 2012, the Twingrove doesn't have Hexproof. That inability to be targeted by opponent's spells and abilities made Dungrove Elder Standard playable in mono-green decks. Still,simply having two potentially really big creatures coming from one card is fairly solid.
Kalonian Twingrove may have not become a big name in the Standard scene at any point, but it did actually see play in some top decks. There was a 3rd place Mono-Green Standard Deck at PPTQ Milano which used 2 copies of Kalonian Twingrove. It also featured Chord of Calling and Nissa, Worldwaker. Another Top 8 Mono-Green Standard deck with Setessan Tactics and Hunter's Prowess also had 2 copies of Twingrove.
Where Kalonian Twingrove still shines best is in Commander, where enter the battlefield effects are abused early and often. There are plenty of other ways to reuse enter the battlefield effects in Commander, such as Conjurer's Closet, Skybind, and Panharmonicon. There's also token duplicating effects with the Populate mechanic and cards like Parallel Lives, Primal Vigor and Doubling Season.
Green is already a color with some ridiculous card in Commander. Paired with its other Treefolk friends in Doran, the Siege Tower and Sapling of Colfenor decks, the Kalonian Twingrove is a nice complement. Kalonian Twingrove also sees a good amount of play in Omnath, Locus of Mana and Nissa, Vastwood Seer Commander decks.
So how much is Kalonian Twingrove worth? Twingrove's price has never been higher than $1 and usually has stayed between $0.25 and $0.50 for most of its life. It's not one of those cards that should ever be worth a bunch of money, but it's definitely one worth having around. It's a bulk rare with some actual value.
Retro Magic (MTG) - "Will of the Masses" Magic the Gathering 2015 Core Set Intro Pack Deck Review
by R.A. Rowell; Co-Owner of Intent-sive Nature & the Brand Shamans network
Will of the Masses, the white-green Intro Pack for the Magic 2015 Core Set, is certainly among the better of the five Intro Packs for this set. It has one of the better rares in the set, Hornet Queen. The Queen alone was as high as $6 a copy in 2015 due to being widely played in Standard at one point. The cover card is another fascinating rare in Phytotitan.
As it is an Intro Pack, however, there are some themes that you can see that Wizards may have stretched a bit in this Core Set, especially with the Convoke mechanic. You'll see more why this is a bit stretched at the common and uncommon level as we analyze this list.
2 Sunblade Elf
2 Selfless Cathar
1 Wall of Mulch
2 Oreskos Swiftclaw
2 Midnight Guard
2 Living Totem
2 Will-Forged Golem
2 Siege Wurm
2 Seraph of the Masses
1 Hornet Queen
1 Gather Courage
1 Titanic Growth
3 Raise the Alarm
2 Devouring Light
1 Nissa's Expedition
1 Sanctified Charge
1 Meditation Puzzle
2 Triplicate Spirits
2 Feral Incarnation
First of all, this deck does a lot right. Sunblade Elf is going to be a 2/2 almost all of the time in this deck. His ability for 4W to inspire the troops (give all your creatures +1/+1) can be relevant late game. Selfless Cathar is an okay creature. Oreskos Swiftclaw is a vanilla, but a 3/1 for 1W is perfectly good and playable in this setting. Wall of Mulch is a bit random, but it can sacrifice itself for a single green mana to draw a card, so no harm there. Midnight Guard is an interesting 2/3 creature. as well.
The next three creatures are cases of where Convoke goes right in Magic 2015. They are all common creatures, Living Totem, Will-Forged Golem, and Siege Wurm. Because they can be Convoked, they can be cast for considerably cheaper. Living Totem starts as a 2/3 for 3G that gives another one of your creatures a +1/+1 counter when it enters. Tapping just a couple of creatures makes it a 2-drop. The Will-Forged Golem is a 4/4 for 6, which doesn't sound great, but with Convoke it can become a lot cheaper. The Siege Wurm is a 5/5 for 5GG, but again, he has Convoke, and not much can deal with a 5/5 single-handedly.
You might think, well, why would I want to tap my creatures to cast another creature? Sometimes you simply will find that you're not attacking for a variety of reasons. Why not tap those creatures that would otherwise just sit there to bring out some more powerful creatures?
Keep in mind also is that we're talking about common-level Convoke creatures. That's pretty cool to see. It's especially exciting for new players to realize that they can get some of their creatures out more quickly than they might have otherwise first suspected.
So, kudos to Wizards on designing these creatures. But there are a couple of examples later of where Convoke isn't so playable. One comes right away in the form of the next creature on the list:
Seraph of the Masses is a cute card. It's an angel (yay) but it costs 5WW to play (wah). Oh, but it has Convoke! The Seraph has power and toughness equal to the number of creatures you control! There's a problem with this. There was a card in a past core set called Crusader of Odric. She cost 2W to play, didn't have Convoke, but did the same thing. Geist-Honored Monk from Innistrad cost 3WW, had Vigilance and brought two fliers with it.
Oh, but this Seraph has flying! Yes, that's relevant. But 7 mana is a lot for a flyer that might be a 4/4 or 5/5 when it lands, especially if you have to tap down your creatures to do so. In Limited, this can work out alright. But in a Constructed deck, even an Intro Pack, there are usually better options to play. However, she does happen to work well alongside the last creature we'll be taking a look at...
Hornet Queen was first printed in one of the Commander 2011 pre-constructed decks. She was brought into Standard with Magic 2015. You might wonder why a 2/2 flyer for 4GGG (7 mana) is so good. She costs the same as the Seraph and she doesn't have Convoke. But, she has other things going for her.
First, she has deathtouch. Secondly, she brings four 1/1 flying creature tokens with deathtouch in with her. OK, she combos well with the Seraph - that's certainly true. But wouldn't you rather have a swarm of death-touching Hornets?
All in all, I'm not crazy about the Seraph. But for an Intro Pack, it's a pretty solid creature line-up that shows off some of the better things that the Convoke mechanic has to offer.
Onto the non-creature spells, we start with Gather Courage.
Gather Courage is a reprint from the original set that first introduced Convoke, Ravnica: City of Guilds. It's a decent card. For a single green mana, it gives a target creature +2/+2 until end of turn. What makes it more than simply a weaker version of Giant Growth (which is +3/+3) is that you can essentially cast it for free simply by tapping a green creature you control. Interesting that it was moved up to uncommon from its original common rarity. It would be nice to have more than a single copy of it in this deck, but that rarity bump is the reason for this.
Naturalize is your typical 1G destroy a target Artifact or Enchantment at Instant speed. It's been reprinted tons of times. Titanic Growth is 1G for an instant that gives a target creature +4/+4. Giant Growth is usually better, and it was still in Standard when this deck was first released.
Raise the Alarm is a great reprint from Ravnica: City of Guilds. It's a common that for 1W makes 2 1/1 White Soldier creature tokens at instant speed. It's fantastic for giving you creatures to tap for your Convoke costs, and being White creatures, they help you with your White mana requirements. There are 3 copies of it in this deck. It's a very playable card that sees Modern play in Black/White tokens, and has seen Standard play whenever it's been in the format.
Devouring Light is yet another Ravnica reprint, with awesome new artwork. It has Convoke, which means that it combines perfectly with Raise the Alarm. For 1WW, you can exile a target attacking or blocking creature. This is very strong removal when you figure that you can potentially play this card for zero mana. Very strong card. There are two copies in the deck.
Nissa's Expedition was a new card from Magic 2015. It's a sort of ramp card, allowing you to search your deck for up to two basic lands, put them onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library. It's slightly better than a card like Cultivate, which lets you search out two lands, but one of them go into your hand. Five mana seems a bit costly for a ramp spell, especially at sorcery speed, but it does have Convoke. It was never great in Constructed, but has seen play in some Commander decks.
Sanctified Charge is another new card. It costs 4W for an instant that gives creatures you control +2/+1 and first strike until end of turn. This is an interesting combat trick, although 5 mana is a lot. Dictate of Heliod from Journey into Nyx is a better combat trick, and that's an Enchantment with Flash that boosts your creatures by +2/+2 as long as it remains in play. But it's not a bad common, and it's an okay Intro Pack card. The first strike is especially nice, as it can turn would-be trades into wins for you.
Meditation Puzzle is one of the Convoke cards that makes me scratch my head a little, but I see why it's in here. It's a common Instant for 3WW and Convoke that gains you 8 life. That's quite a tempo swing, and there are people that have enjoyed playing cards like Angel's Mercy - which gained you 7 life for 4 mana. It's a great Limited card, but I don't typically like it in Constructed unless you're specifically playing around a lifegain or tempo theme.
Triplicate Spirits is a Convoke card I can get behind a bit more. It costs 4WW for a Sorcery that makes three flying 1/1 spirits. The Convoke cost makes it a bit easier to stomach, though. I like this card more than Meditation Puzzle, certainly, and getting fliers is pretty cool. I do feel it's a bit slow for Constructed, though.
Next we have Overwhelm, which is basically Overrun with Convoke. There's an obvious problem with that. Having to tap down creatures to help pay for an effect that boosts your creatures by +3/+3 until end of turn seems a bit counterproductive. Plus 5GG is a lot for that sort of effect, especially when you don't gain trample as most Overrun type effects do. I'm simply not a fan.
Feral Invocation rounds out the mana curve all the way up at a whopping nine mana (8G). However, it does make three 3/3 beasts and it does have Convoke. At the time, though, the two "Surprise Centaurs" of Fated Intervention from Born of the Gods were simply more cost-effective. I would play that over this at Sorcery speed. Were it Instant speed it would be a cute combat trick in an Intro Pack. But at Sorcery speed, it's just very slow.
The list finishes out with 13 Forests and 12 Plains, for your typical 25 land in an intro pack.
"Will of the Masses" has a lot going for it. It shows off some of the cool things Convoke can do, by helping you amass forces that can do some serious damage. But the higher end of the curve is clogged up with what I feel are rather inefficient cards like the Seraph and some of the high cost Convoke cards. I like what Triplicate Spirits is doing and gaining 8 life out of nowhere with Meditation Puzzle is cute, but overall it's a bit of a disappointing finish to what starts out as a pretty cool list. The top end of the curve needs work, so I'll give this a B-minus as far as intro packs go.
The final verdict is that this may be the second- or third-best of the Magic 2015 Intro Packs, with Flames of the Dragon being the best of the bunch. For awhile, though, when Hornet Queen skyrocketed in price, this was the most valuable.
Retro Magic - Magic the Gathering 2015 Core Set "Hit the Ground Running" Intro Pack Deck Review
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Today on Retro Magic, we take a look at the Blue & Green Magic 2015 Core Set Intro Pack: Hit the Ground Running. It features the Magic 2015 Blue pre-release promo card, Mercurial Pretender. The deck is based around playing a lot of creatures with enter the battlefield effects and being able to reuse them. Let’s take a look at how effectively this Intro Pack gets the job done compared to other Core Set 2015 intro packs.
Here’s the deck list:
1 Fugitive Wizard
1 Research Assistant
2 Runeclaw Bear
2 Satyr Wayfinder
2 Coral Barrier
2 Frost Lynx
1 Illusory Angel
2 Invasive Species
2 Reclamation Sage
2 Roaring Primadox
3 Shaman of Spring
1 Mercurial Pretender
2 Kapsho Kitefins
1 Carnivous Moss-Beast
1 Stormtide Leviathan
2 Peel from Reality
1 Turn to Frog
2 Into the Void
First, we’ll take a look at Mercurial Pretender. It costs 4U to cast, and you may have it enter the battlefield as a copy of any creature you control, except that it gains the ability to return itself to your hand for 2UU. Being a 0/0, you are forced to have to play it as a copy of something, at least, more often than not. Unlike some Clone cards, it can only target creatures you control and can’t copy opponent’s creatures.
Five mana is not an absurd amount of mana for a clone effect, especially a clone that can return itself to your hand. And with the number of enter the battlefield effects that are within this deck, the Pretender can actually do some interesting things. It’s not the strongest Constructed clone out there, but in this particular intro pack, it serves an interesting purpose to tie the theme of the deck together.
But there are some rather strange decisions made for this deck. The first of those curious decisions is the inclusion of two copies of Satyr Wayfinder.
Satyr Wayfinder is a useful card in decks that use the graveyard as a resource. When it enters the battlefield, you reveal the top four cards of your library. You may put a land card from among those cards and put it into your hand. The rest go to the graveyard. Were there cards in the deck that cared about this, this would make sense to accelerate your land drops at the cost of cards being thrown into your graveyard. There is only one card that does so in this deck, Restock, which we’ll get to later.
Fugitive Wizard is a 1/1 vanilla creature for a single blue mana and Fugitive Wizard is a 1/3 with an over-costed “looter” effect. Four mana (3U) to draw a card and discard a card is pretty lousy. It’s barely good in Limited. The two Runeclaw Bear are your classic Grizzly Bears, 2/2 for 2 mana. These are cards that can be easily replaced.
Coral Barrier is actually a very interesting card. It’s a 1/3 defender for 2U, but it brings with it a 1/1 blue Squid creature token with Islandwalk. At common, this is a nice Wall. There are two copies of it in the deck.
Frost Lynx is another new card from Magic 2015. It’s a 2/2 Elemental Cat (with some sick artwork) for 2U that has an enter the battlefield effect that “freezes” a target creature an opponent controls. That is, that creature becomes tapped and doesn’t untap during your opponent’s next untap step. It’s a very solid tempo card that gives you a solid 2/2 body along with it. The two copies of this card are a solid inclusion in this list.
Illusory Angel is a 4/4 flyer for 2U, but you can’t play her unless you’ve cast a spell that turn. That sounds like a serious drawback, but 4/4 flyers are tough to deal with, so if you can land her, she can do some serious damage. She’s one of the better Constructed playable cards in the deck.
Invasive Species is an interesting card that helps you reuse your creature’s enter the battlefield abilities. It can even help you sort of “mana ramp” by returning a tapped land back to your hand to replay it during that same turn if you wouldn’t otherwise have a land drop. It has a 3/3 body, which is fine for 2G. It’s a decent common.
Reclamation Sage has had plenty written about her already for being a very solid removal card. Hitting either artifacts or enchantments makes her quite versatile, and having that ability be optional, as well. She’s a super solid card that you don’t mind reusing again and again.
Speaking of reusing creature abilities, Roaring Primadox forces you to return a creature you control to its owner’s hand at the beginning of each of your upkeeps. This sounds like a nice interaction with all of the enter the battlefield effects in the deck, but as you might be seeing, the power level of a lot of the enter the battlefield effects are not quite to the level you’d like to see in a Constructed deck. But Primadox is optimal in this sort of deck, so its inclusion of two copies makes sense.
Card advantage is always good, and Shaman of Spring gives you just that. For 3G you get a 2/2 elf that also gives you a card draw when she enters the battlefield. But besides that and having pretty artwork, she’s a bit underwhelming. She’s fun to reuse again and again, yes, and card draw isn’t something you typically see in Green. So she fits into this strategy, and who doesn’t like to draw cards?
Kapsho Kitefins is a very interesting card to round out the top end of this deck’s mana curve. It’s a 3/3 for 4UU, which is sort of costly, but they do have flying. However, whenever Kitefins or another creature enters the battlefield under your control, you get to tap a target creature an opponent controls. It’s especially nice to have a card like this when you have cards like Coral Barrier that bring another creature along with it when it enters. Playing your creatures over and over again to tap down opponents’ creatures is especially fun, and while it’s not the most efficient tempo strategy, it can work.
Many decks need some sort of finisher, and in this deck, that’s Stormtide Leviathan. Yes, he costs 5UUU to cast, but he’s an 8/8 with Islandwalk. Wow, that’s big. Plus, all lands become Islands in addition to their other types. That’s right – he is essentially un-blockable. The other thing about the Leviathan is that he prevents creatures without flying or islandwalk from even attacking. Basically, if you drop this card while playing this deck, if your opponent can’t get rid of it, you basically have the game one.
Also, because all lands become Islands, it’s then possible for every land, including your opponents’ to tap for blue mana. It’s an interesting thing to keep in mind.
Overall, the creatures make sense in the theme, although the Wayfinders are a bit of an odd inclusion.
Onto the non-creature spells, we start with one copy of Negate, your everyday 1U counter-spell for non-creature spells. Then, we have two copies of Peel From Reality.
Originally printed in Avacyn Restored, Peel from Reality costs 1U for an instant that returns target creature you control and target creature you don’t control to their owners’ hands. This way, you can save your creature from removal and “un-summon” one of your opponent’s monsters. It’s a very good tempo card.
Turn to Frog is a super fun card. Turn an opponent’s creature into a 1/1 with no abilities? Too much fun to be had there. Ribbit!
There’s one copy of Plummet in here, which allows you to destroy a target creature with flying for 1G. Seems awfully random?
Encrust is an enchantment for 1BB that can enchant an artifact or creature. That creature is no longer allowed to untap during its controller’s untap step, nor be able to use its activated abilities. It’s another interesting tempo card that mostly only sees play in Limited, but it makes sense in an Intro Pack.
Into the Void is another reprint from Avacyn Restored. It costs 3U for a sorcery that allows you to return up to two target creatures to their owner’s hands. Again, it’s not a bad tempo card, but two more copies of Peel from Reality seem a better choice for speed reasons. But there may be points in the game where sending back two opponent’s creatures just gives you enough advantage to win. Their inclusion does make sense in that case.
Meteorite is a cute card. It’s an artifact that costs 5 to cast, and when it enters the battlefield, it deals 2 damage to target creature or player. After that, it’s a literal “mana rock” that can tap to give you one mana of any color. It’s fun, especially in Limited, but it isn’t too great in Constructed.
We round out the non-creature spells with a cool reprint from Invasion called Restock. The cool part is that Restock is now being printed at uncommon when it was originally a rare. For 3GG you return two target cards from your graveyard to your hand. You then have to exile it, so that you can never use it again. Restock is a good solid card that sees lots of play in Commander. It’s a decent card to have in an Intro Pack, too. What’s especially interesting though is that it’s the only card that seems to combo with the Satyr Wayfinders. Early in the game you’ll dump a few cards into your graveyard and Restock could get you two of them back. It’s also likely you’ll drop Restock in the graveyard.
The list is rounded out by the basic lands: 13 Islands and 12 Forests.
Overall, “Hit the Ground Running” has an interesting tempo theme based around getting card advantage through creature’s enter the battlefield effects and being able to reuse those effects to gain additional advantage. It’s a sound strategy. But there are a couple cards that don’t make a lot of sense, and as with every intro pack there are the sub-optimal “vanilla” creatures that take up some space. The Satyr Wayfinders make me scratch my head a little too, but I suppose having Restock in the deck made them a cute inclusion. (Also what other creatures in M15 could have they included at common rarity in blue and green?)
There are definitely some ways to improve upon this deck, and I like the overall strategy. It’s not as strong as the White/Black Intro Pack, Price of Glory, but it has some cool elements for those that want to learn to play a tempo deck. Blue/green are definitely the colors for creature-based tempo. I would certainly not see this as a shell for an FNM-worthy list, but it’s a nice start. I still greatly prefer the blue/green list from the Magic 2015 Clash Pack.
In any case, you get a couple of nifty rares and a couple booster packs. It’s an OK intro pack, but it doesn’t quite have the bang others from the Core Set 2015 Intro Packs have. You do get an Illusory Angel, a Restock, and a couple of Reclamation Sages, which are all good uncommon cards. All in all, a C-plus effort.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
From the name alone, you may assume that the Magic the Gathering 2015 Core Set “Flames of the Dragon” intro pack was a Dragon deck. Actually, there was a forced artifact theme in Red & Blue in the 2015 Core Set. While one of the Dragons in this deck certainly plays into the artifact theme, they are secondary to the success of this particular deck.
Because the Red/Blue artifact theme was well designed around during this set, "Flames of the Dragon" is of the more solid Intro Packs of Magic 2015. This Intro Pack was released in July 2014 and features two rare dragons: Hoarding Dragon and Siege Dragon. However, this is not exactly a Magic 2015 dragon deck, as we will see from the deck list.
3 Bronze Sable
2 Welkin Tern
1 Rummaging Goblin
3 Aeronaut Tinkerer
2 Krenko’s Enforcer
2 Wall of Frost
3 Scrapyard Mongrel
1 Hoarding Dragon
2 Glacial Crasher
1 Siege Dragon
1 Rogue’s Gloves
1 Sacred Armory
1 Tyrant’s Machine
1 Shrapnel Blast
2 Ensoul Artifact
1 Brawler’s Plate
1 Staff of the Flame Magus
1 Staff of the Mind Magus
2 Lava Axe
1 Darksteel Citadel
This is definitely an artifact-happy deck with the Dragons as curve-topping threats. First, we’ll take a look at the two rare Dragons.
Siege Dragon is a very powerful card, especially in Limited. It costs 5RR to cast for a 5/5 flyer. When it enters the battlefield, it destroys all Walls your opponents control. Then, whenever it attacks, if the defending player controls no Walls, it deals 2 damage to each creature that player controls that doesn’t have flying. While this sounds awfully powerful, he doesn’t have Haste – at least not on his own.
As far as Intro Pack rares go, however, he’s not bad. He’s not really a Constructed playable card, though. He does show up in more than his fair share of Commander decks, though, due to his ability to wipe out a lot of creatures at once.
Hoarding Dragon is a reprint from the Magic 2011 Core Set. It would later be reprinted as an Uncommon in Iconic Masters. When he enters the battlefield, you may search your library for an artifact card, exile it, then shuffle your library. When he dies, you may put that exiled artifact into its owner’s hand. This sounds like a nifty tutoring effect, and a 4/4 flying dragon for 3RR sounds decent enough on top of that.
The trick is to make sure that the Hoarding Dragon actually dies. If he’s removed from the field in any other way, whether he’s returned to the hand, returned to the deck or exiled, that artifact you searched out is gone forever. You have to ensure that he dies.
If you manage to get that exile artifact to your hand, then Hoarding Dragon’s good. Otherwise, he’s just a 4/4 flyer that just cost you an artifact from your deck. Still, like Siege Dragon, he has a good enough effect that he sees a good deal of casual play, especially in the Commander format.
The rest of the creatures are a mix of artifact creatures and some creatures that are helped by the presence of other artifacts. Ornithopter, which we haven’t seen in quite awhile, is a 0-drop 0/2 flyer. Free-to-play creatures are awesome, especially when it’s combined with another card in this deck, but we’ll get to that in the non-creature spells.
There are also 3 copies of Bronze Sable in the deck, a 2/1 artifact creature that costs two colorless mana to cast. While they seem rather vanilla, they are cost effective and give you artifacts that help with the overall theme of the deck.
The next two-drop in the deck is Welkin Tern, which is a 2/1 flyer for 1U that can only block creatures with flying. It’s a fairly standard Core Set common creature. Not much more to say about it other than it’s an early evasive creature. There are two of those in the deck.
Next we have a Rummaging Goblin. He costs 2R to cast for a 1/1 Goblin Rogue, but he has a useful tap ability. It’s what’s often called the “looter” effect, draw a card, then discard a card. There’s a blue card in the set, Research Assistant, that does something similar, but at the cost of 3U per “loot.” Rummaging Goblin is strictly better in that sense, but on a much more fragile body, where the Assistant is a 1/3 for 1U.
Aeronaut Tinkerer is a Magic 2015 card. He costs 2U to cast for a 2/3 that gains flying as long as you control an artifact. Considering that controlling an artifact will not be hard in this deck, he’s a very good card at common. There are 3 copies of him in the deck.
Next, we have two copies of Krenko’s Enforcer. He costs 1RR to cast for a 2/2 with Intimidate, meaning he can only be blocked by red creatures or artifact creatures. While he’s not really on theme, he’s aggressive.
Already, we have a ton of evasive creatures, some with flying, others than can gain flying, and a couple with Intimidate. This is looking like a very solid creature line-up so far! So who will hold the ground?
To help with that, the deck has 2 copies of Wall of Frost. It’s a 0/7 (!) Defender for 1UU and whenever it blocks a creature, that creature can’t untap during its controller’s next untap step. It’s one of the better walls out there.
We then have two copies of a classic artifact creature: Juggernaut, a 5/3 for 4 that must attack every turn. It does have the nifty ability to be able to not be blocked by Walls, which is definitely a “thing” in this Core Set. He has been a great card in the past and even sees play in Vintage, so he’s not to be underestimated!
We then have three copies of Scrapyard Mongrel, another new common card from Magic 2015. He’s a 3/3 for 3R which is sort of mediocre, but as long as you control any artifact, he gains +2/+0 and gains trample. Suddenly, he’s a very aggressive creature.
We round out the creature line-up with 2 copies of Glacial Crasher. It’s a 5/5 Elemental with Trample for 4UU. However, it can’t attack unless there is a Mountain on the battlefield. That should never be a problem with this list, though, since it is a red/blue list, and that Mountain can be on the opponent’s side of the battlefield, as well. It’s not the most exciting big beater in the world, but it’s only a common, so you can only ask so much.
The creature line-up in this Intro Pack is actually fairly strong compared to its counterparts. It only gets better when you see how they synergize with the non-creature spells.
The first non-creature spell is actually an equipment: Rogue’s Gloves, new for Magic 2015. It costs only 2 to cast and 2 to equip. Whenever the creature it’s equipped to deals combat damage to a player, you may draw a card. Considering how many flyers there are in this deck and all of the trample that’s in this deck, having this card equipped to one of them could give you some nifty card advantage. I’m a big fan of this uncommon Equipment. Plus, it’s an artifact.
Next, we have another artifact, Sacred Armory, also new to Magic 2015. It costs 2 to cast and gives a target creature “firebreathing” (+1/+0 until end of turn) for the cost of 2 colorless mana per activation. It’s especially good in a Limited context, but in Constructed it’s just a nice way to pump extra mana into dealing a bit more damage. But the fact that it’s an artifact gives it other reasons to be included, too.
Yet another artifact, Tyrant’s Machine costs 2 to cast, and provides a way to tap down opposing creatures for the cost of 4 colorless mana. While it’s not the most cost-effective card, again, it’s an artifact to provide fuel for the theme.
The onslaught of new artifacts continues with the Equipment, Brawler’s Plate. It costs 3 to cast, but 4 to equip. It gives the equipped creature +2/+2 and trample. That seems pretty nifty, even if 4 is a bit pricey for an equip cost. Whatever, it’s an artifact.
To round out the artifacts we have the Staves for red and blue: Staff of the Flame Magus and Staff of the Mind Magus, respectively. These cards allow you to gain 1 life each time a Red or Blue spell is cast, or a Mountain or Island enters play under your control. It’s nice for tempo reasons, but again, they are also artifacts.
The last three cards in the deck are your big finishers: one copy of Shrapnel Blast and two copies of Ensoul Artifact.
Shrapnel Blast is a very strong card. It was powerful back in the days of Mirrodin with its first printing, and saw Standard play during Magic 2015 Standard, too. With so many potential artifacts to sacrifice in this deck, it may be the best spell you have at your disposal. Five damage to a target creature or player is a lot, and well worth the sacrifice in most cases. The sad part is that there is only one copy of this in the Intro Pack. Four copies of this in a better tuned version of this deck would make this archetype quite deadly.
The other card is one of my personal favorite cards in the entire Core Set: Ensoul Artifact. Making an artifact into a creature with base power and toughness 5/5 in addition to everything else that it does is pretty ridiculous. Making a 0/2 Ornithopter into a 5/5 that can still fly for only two mana is pretty ridiculous. It even allows you to make your Equipments and utility artifacts into creatures. It’s another card that I wish there were a full playset of in the deck. This card has a lot of potential to do a lot of silly things.
The other card that Ensoul Artifact happens to be very good with is Darksteel Citadel. It’s been reprinted in a duel deck since its first inclusion in Darksteel (as a common, no less!) but it is now being bumped up to uncommon. (Interestingly enough, the Citadel was reprinted again at common in Modern Masters 2015 soon afterwards!) Darksteel Citadel is an indestructible artifact land. This is relevant because it’s yet another target for your Ensoul Artifact. It may be the best target outside of Ornithopter. There’s only one in the deck, so if you want to take this deck to the next level, there should definitely be a full four copies.
The list is rounded out by 24 basic lands: 12 Mountains and 12 Islands.
As far as Intro Packs go, “Flames of the Dragon” definitely provided one of the better shells around which to build a Standard deck around the time of Magic 2015. The forced red/blue artifact theme in the set is especially interesting. If you were to cut some of the weaker cards in the deck and add in a couple more Ornithopters, max out the Shrapnel Blasts, Ensoul Artifacts, and Darksteel Citadels, you have the start of a fairly decent deck.
As constructed, I’d have to give this deck a B as an intro product. Compared to its other Intro Pack counterparts, it’s a very aggressive list with plenty of evasive creatures and a very strong theme. The only issue is that you have to be extremely picky when to use the best two cards in the deck. Of course, the point is to provide a shell, and there’s a pretty strong one here. It’s definitely in contention for the best of the Magic 2015 Core Set Intro Packs.
Just a couple years later, this would be one of the more expensive Intro Packs to still buy sealed. Why anyone would pay $25 or more for this deck and 2 Magic 2015 booster packs is beyond me. Yes, Ensoul Artifact is a decent uncommon, but that’s really the only money card in the deck! Actually, it was a $1+ uncommon for a time because of how popular this deck was in Standard.
Magic 2015 was a set full of good cards, so two lottery tickets in the form of M15 booster packs was a nice bonus. All in all, I wouldn’t buy this deck sealed. But if you want to build a deck like it, I would definitely recommend the Red/Blue Artifact archetype as a way to go. As for building a Magic 2015 era dragon deck, this is not the place to start.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Aetherspouts is a very interesting Blue card in Magic the Gathering's Magic 2015 Core Set. It was an extremely strong Limited card that even saw some Standard sideboard play for awhile. That was because of the crazy aggro decks in the format before Innistrad block rotated out of Standard. Yes, it costs 3UU. Still, it's an instant spell that is clearly a better version of Aetherize.
For those that don't know, Aetherize is an Instant from Gatecrash for 3U that returns all attacking creatures to their owner's hand. But Aetherspouts is a somewhat better card because it returns attacking creatures to the deck for only one more mana. That's much more devastating for an opponent to deal with if it's a lot of creatures that are being returned.
Aetherspouts even makes your opponent decide which creatures go on top and which creatures go on the bottom of the deck. So, instead of simply giving your opponent their creatures back to their hand, you deprive them of all those creatures, making them have to draw them again. Then, they have to choose whether they want to draw those creatures again sooner or later. Plus, if any of them were token creatures, they are gone forever. Ouch.
In Standard, Aetherspouts gave Blue decks a nightmare for aggro decks to deal with in their arsenals. It did see some Standard sideboard play at the very least, as the perfect counter to ultra-aggressive decks. Five mana was just too much for Modern, though. So, since rotating out of Standard hasn't been seen competitively. However, in Commander, Aetherspouts has become a staple in many Blue decks, so this card still definitely has a home.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Haunted Plate Mail was pretty cool in Limited when it was first released in the Magic 2014 Core Set. Sure, it wasn’t going to see much play in Constructed, but getting a free creature whenever you didn’t control any was pretty cool. Yeah, it could die to removal, but then again you could always just equip it to your best creature and give it +4/+4.
Quite a few players liked it in that Limited environment. Also, a Blue/White Trading Post deck ran two copies with some success back in 2013. That was an actual thing that happened. In Commander, while hardly one of the best Equipments you can run, there are plenty of players of Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer and Kemba, Kha Regent that have run it out there. It’s a bulk rare, but as they go an Equipment that can also be a creature is never a bad thing.
When the Mail was reprinted in Magic 2015, however, it was much more mediocre in that Limited environment. It was still somewhat playable, but it wasn’t a rare anyone wanted to see. It was fine in Sealed if you didn’t have any good creatures to play… but you’d never actually want to draft it, despite being able to fit into literally any color. Whatever the case, it’s a well-designed card that was just printed in one too many Core Sets.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Back in July of 2014, some players were raging that Wizards of the Coast would reprint Grindclock in the Magic 2015 Core Set. Considering that it is a set with strong playables such as Chord of Calling, Shivan Reef, and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth at rare, this frustration is more than a bit understandable. However, mill is a very popular casual deck mechanic, and one even I myself have dabbled with on several occasions.
Grindclock was originally printed in the Scars of Mirrodin block, in which it was a bit better received. It’s an artifact, and there were some decks that could utilize it fairly effectively in Standard at the time. Grindclock has two tap abilities, one to put a charge counter on it, and another that mills a target player’s library X cards, where X is the number of charge counters on Grindclock. It’s become very popular in Commander decks in recent years where mill is definitely a strategy that is quite well supported. But it doesn't fit at all into the Standard environment.
However, let’s look at its Limited implications. It’s only a 2 drop that can tap to gain a charge counter as soon as its played. As in Limited you are typically playing with a 40-card deck rather than a 60-card deck, Grindclock literally does speed up the game clock, often milling cards your opponent will need to win the game into their graveyard before they can draw them. With a card like Mind Sculpt already in Magic 2015, there is already a minor mill sub-theme going on. So in Limited, if you’re going for a control type build, Grindclock is not the worst rare draft in the world, and it’s likely never going to be first-picked.
One cool combination that existed in the Magic 2015 set was with the two-drop Enchantment, Ensoul Artifact, which turns an artifact into a 5/5 creature. A Grindclock that is also a 5/5 creature is pretty fun. But you're not going to build around that interaction.
So is Grindclock sort of a weak rare? It is for many people. But do remember, Core Sets are going to have a few cards for different sorts of players. Grindclock is one of those cards that some newer players or more casual players will want to run and it does have utility in Commander, so it’s not a bad reprint from that perspective. I’m not going to want to open any Grindclocks, personally, but when I draft the set I’m perfectly happy to draft one of the value uncommons in the set over that anyway.
In Standard, mill was not really a thing in the format anymore. Phenax, the God of Mill (technically he’s Phenax, God of Deception) was a potential core piece of a mill deck, but that plan never emerged as viable competitively.
Phenax allows for a lot of card milling to go on., but mill simply never had a deck that actually emerged into a real contender in the Standard meta-game. Gaining a card like Mind Sculpt in Magic 2015, which is a sorcery for 1U that mills a target opponent 7 cards, didn't even help. Consuming Aberration, one of the deck’s main win conditions rotated out of Standard that following October. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, an often overlooked planeswalker, which looked to be a strong piece of a mill deck, remained a part of the post-Return To Ravnica block Standard. But it never made a mill deck work, except in Modern where more powerful mill cards exist.
That being said, Grindclock was perhaps the worst rare you could pull from a Magic 2015 booster box… But it kept up a mill sub theme that seems to emerge in a lot of Core Sets. So it made sense, even if it was sort of a seemingly random inclusion in a set meant to make artifacts into 5/5 powerhouses...
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Spirit Bonds is an Enchantment card from the Magic 2015 Core Set. It was designed by Justin Gary, former Pro Tour player and winner of Pro Tour Houston in 2002. It's an interesting card that can create a bunch of flying Spirit tokens. Whenever a non-token creature enters the field under your control, you can pay one White mana, allowing you to put a 1/1 White Spirit creature token with flying into play. It's similar to Militia's Pride from Lorwyn, which let you put in 1/1 Kithkin Soldiers tapped and attacking whenever you attacked with a non-token creature for the same cost of a single White mana per creature.
For an Enchantment that only costs 1W to cast, that's already pretty good. However, it also has a second ability. For 1W, you can sacrifice a Spirit and a target non-Spirit creature gains indestructible until end of turn. Being able to save some of your best creatures from board-wipes at the cost of Spirits that would be lost anyway is very helpful.
Overall, Spirit Bonds is a very solid rare Enchantment that is very playable in a wide variety of Commander decks. Aggressive mono-White Commanders such as Jazal Goldmane, Radiant, Archangel and Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero have made decent use of this card. Other Commanders that have used Spirit Bonds include Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, Brago, King Eternal, and Teysa, Orzhov Scion, among others.
Spirit Bonds hasn't really seen much Constructed play, however. There was a Magic Online Standard deck in November 2014 that did run two copies, a WBR aggro brew that you can find here. There have also been some rogue budget Blue/White Heroic and White Weenie builds that have also run two copies. During its time in Standard, it was a good card that just never found itself in a strong enough deck to be worth much. If you're building a Commander deck with one of the aforementioned Commanders, however, it's a card to keep in mind.
by Phoenix Desertsong
Much ado has been made about the Slivers from the Magic 2015 (M15) Core Set. Are they good? Actually, yes, they are all actually quite good. The only trouble is that there is only one in each color, plus Sliver Hive, and the Legendary Creature Sliver Hivelord. Today, we’ll take a look at each of them and see just how good each of them is, in WUBRG (White, Blue, Black, Red, Green) order.
When it comes to Constricting Sliver, six mana for a 3/3 creature is a lot for Constructed. It has a great effect, though, turning all of your Slivers into Banisher Priests. It does have some good synergy with commonly played Slivers in Commander. But for Standard and Modern, it’s fairly highly costed. It’s a good addition to to the Sliver toolbox, but not one that really should see any play outside of “kitchen table” Magic or Commander.
Diffusion Sliver is one of the better Magic 2015 Slivers by far. It’s a bit similar to a Sliver from Time Spiral called Opaline Sliver. With that Sliver, you got to draw a card whenever a Sliver was targeted by a spell an opponent controlled.
With Diffusion Sliver, you get to counter a spell or ability an opponent controls that targets a Sliver unless its controller pays 2 colorless mana. These abilities stack as well, meaning if you have two copies of Diffusion Sliver, an opponent has to pay 4 mana. In Modern, this wouldn’t get around Abrupt Decay (which is also still in Standard until October 2014), but overall this card is a great way to protect your key Slivers from being targeted by removal. It’s one of the best of the bunch by far, and definitely Constructed playable.
Leeching Sliver is another strong Sliver from Magic 2015 that doesn’t look strong on the surface. It’s a 1/1 for 1B that says “Whenever a Sliver you control attacks, defending player loses 1 life.” Like Diffusion Sliver these effects stack. I did have this to say about Leeching Sliver previously:
“It has been mentioned by some players that Thorncaster Sliver is already in Standard and does pretty much the same job as Leeching Sliver, and in fact, is able to make Slivers deal damage to creatures as well. However, Thorncaster Sliver is 5 mana. Leeching Sliver is two mana, and their abilities stack as separate instances. So Leeching Sliver is overall a far more aggressive card and even though it’s only a 1/1, Thorncaster is merely a 2/2.”
I definitely like this card over the Thorncaster Sliver. As a two-drop, it may be fairly easy to remove, but it also is going to help deal its fair share of damage before it’s gone.
Belligerent Sliver is a fairly strong card that essentially acts as a Goblin War Drums for all of your Slivers. This means that any of your Slivers cannot be blocked except by two or more creatures. This is a very powerful effect.
However, this effect actually did exist on a previous Sliver: Two-Headed Sliver, which cost one mana less at 1R. The difference is that prior to the Magic 2014 re-imagining of Slivers, all Slivers affected all Slivers on the board. That was a common from Time Spiral, so for Modern purposes, that card is actually better unless you’re in a Slivers mirror-match – which is not incredibly common in the Modern meta-game. It’s probably worth running in Standard, though.
While deathtouch is not a new ability for Slivers, Magic 2015’s Venom Sliver is a definite improvement over Toxin Sliver, a rare from Legions that cost 3B to play for a 3/3. It gave all Slivers deathtouch, not just your own, but was created before Deathtouch was keyworded. Venom Sliver only affects your own Slivers and is much more cost-effective at 1G. It’s highly Constructed playable. That isn’t to say that Toxin Sliver is bad – it’s still extremely good. But it’s four mana, and not Modern playable, only Legacy-playable. (Doesn’t stop it from being about $12, though.) In Commander, it will pair well with Venom Sliver, a format in which redundancy is perfectly fine. But for Constructed Slivers, Venom Sliver definitely wins here.
Sliver Hivelord is easily an auto-include in any Sliver Commander deck. Still, he isn’t quite the Commander that the other three 5-color Sliver Legendary Creatures in Sliver Legion, Sliver Overlord, or Sliver Queen are. The Legion and Queen, however, are quite pricey money-wise, and Overlord himself is about $20 USD. Also, only the Legion is Modern-playable, and he would definitely be played considering he’s a 7/7 for 5 mana (WUBRG) and the weight of his effect: “All Sliver creatures get +1/+1 for each other Sliver in play.”
That being said, making all Slivers you control indestructible is huge, especially in a Slivers mirror match-up – unlikely, but possible. Being able to survive most board-wipes definitely helps your cause. He’s also currently the least expensive of all of the Sliver Legendaries (at this time). He is definitely a potential Commander, but his best place is in Constructed.
Lastly we have the Sliver-friendly land, Sliver Hive.
Modern already has Cavern of Souls and Ancient Ziggurat to help cast Slivers, but having yet another play-set of a land that fixes mana for any of your Slivers very much helps. In Standard, Sliver Hive and Mana Confluence is all you really have. The fact that it also can tap for 1 colorless mana is a nice bonus, and the third ability to create a 1/1 colorless Sliver creature token for 5 mana is just a nice little bonus you can use as a mana sink (as long as you control a Sliver, that is.) It’s a very strong non-basic land, even though its usage is so narrow.
Magic 2014 had a bunch of Slivers, too. So when these Magic 2015 slivers arrived, Slivers would appear to be a playable deck in Standard. There was Galerider Sliver at a single Blue mana able to give all of your Slivers flying, and Manaweft Sliver at 1G to help all your Slivers become five-color mana rocks. You also had Predatory Sliver at 1G to give all of your Slivers +1/+1 and Blur Sliver to give all of your Slivers haste. To top it all off, you had Bonescythe Sliver at 3W to give all of your Slivers double strike. All things considered, you could have an extremely nasty Sliver list. You even have Obelisk of Urd in Magic 2015 to help with Tribal! It’s 6 mana but it has Convoke and gives all creatures of the chosen type you control +2/+2.
So are the Slivers good in Magic 2015? I would say that Constricting Sliver is only Commander playable, and Two-Headed Sliver may be a bit better than Belligerent Sliver in Modern. Until October 2014, there was some potential for Slivers to make some noise. But after the arrival of the Khans of Tarkir block, these few Slivers became a curiosity in Standard. Most of these Slivers are quite Modern-playable, though. They have all definitely strengthened Slivers in the Commander format. Five of them are also uncommon, which makes them easier to get, and the Hive is only a rare in a Core Set.
I like that Wizards put these new Slivers into the Magic 2015 Core Set, but it felt like a plant for Casual Constructed more than anything else. Slivers are not really a viable draft strategy in M15 Limited because there simply aren’t enough of them and there aren’t any at common. I do like all of the Slivers overall, however, and I’m excited to see them potentially start showing up in Modern on a more competitive basis. I love the tribe, and I wish they would bring back their original “hive-mind” flavor of affecting all Slivers, but I’ll live with these. After all, it’s always better when you get to enjoy the effects and not your opponents.
Final verdict: Magic 2015's Slivers are good. They made only a slight impact in Standard, though, with a very limited window in which to actually provide much value. But these few Slivers definitely gave deck builders in Modern and other formats more ammo to play with.
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